P. Gregory Warden
Michael Thomas

Week 4 - Greg Warden - Looking at the Big Picture:

We are now officially halfway through the 2004 campaign. Students and staff have returned from the mid-season break, and the trenches and labs are alive with activity. The weather this year has been exceptional, cool and dry. Morale is good. It is an appropriate time to reflect on our progress, on both the short-term and long-term goals of the season. Our short-term goal this year was to finish up the archaeological zone in the Podere Funghi and to begin to study the material from that area in order to prepare for publication. We also planned to make significant progress on the western end of the monumental complex on the arx. Furthermore, we hoped to continue to explicate, through survey or geoprospection, the broader picture of the diachronic settlement pattern of the site, that is, to reconstruct the physical layout of the settlement from the 7th to the 2nd centuries BC.

Left to right: Brad Schneider, Greg Warden, Robert Belanger, Dario Monna, and
Jess Galloway discussing excavation around the kilns in the Podere Funghi.

In past seasons our "best-laid plans" fell by the wayside. There are always surprises. There is always the unexpected, especially at the beginning of an archaeological project when archaeologists are in the unhappy situation of the proverbial blind man trying to feel the shape of an elephant. But now, it's different. It may be that in our tenth year of excavation we are finally able to understand the nature of the site, or it may just be good luck, but this year, I am happy to report, we are right on track. The Podere Funghi, an area that began as a kind of salvage archaeology project, where we were one step ahead of the plow that was churning up pottery in an otherwise unprepossessing field, has produced at least two phases of occupation. In the first phase we have an area of intensive ceramic production, and we are lucky enough to have the remains of a number of pottery kilns. What is remarkable here is that we also have the midden (excavated in the late 90s) where masses of pottery, probably the discards, were dumped. This material is being studied in the laboratory by Prof. Ann Steiner and her students, and its eventual publication will allow us to document a rare slice of Etruscan life, the everyday work of everyday Etruscans. At a later date the Podere Funghi became a residential area, and the structure that we have excavated over the past four or five years becomes ever more impressive from season to season. In the first years of excavation we thought it a simple rectangular building, a shed or small farmhouse, but as excavation progressed we realized that it has impressive foundations, handsomely built, deep, and quite massive, far better made than the Phase 3 foundations on the arx. It may have been a two story structure with a porch on the east side, not large, but certainly impressive in height and placement. Was it a farm or a residence? That's the question that we will try to answer as we study the finds that came from this area, and their placement in the architectural-historical matrix. I remember being told years ago, when I was learning about black-and-white photography, that as much of the art of photography takes places in the darkroom as when taking the photograph. The same is true in archaeology, for the work that goes on in the laboratory is easily as important as the excavation. The field work in the Podere Funghi is drawing to a close (I shouldn't really say this, for who knows what surprises await us on the morrow), but there are years of work, of patient study and reconstruction, before we can produce the final publication of this archaeological zone.

View of trenches in the Podere Funghi during Week 4.


Panoramic view of some of the trenches open on the arx of Poggio Colla during the 2004 field season.

The arx is a far more complicated area, with four large trenches that are all producing new information. What emerges is a somewhat better sense of the monumental complex in its latest iteration, what we have called Phase 3, with some small hints of the second phase as well. Most interesting, for me, is the evidence from Trench 20, an area excavated but not finished in 2000. Here we are uncovering architecture from the very northern edge of the poggio that helps explain the relationship of the two northern walls (which we thought "terracing" walls when we first encountered them and that run much of the length of the arx) to the monumental building. It now looks as if these walls are much more than retaining or terracing walls. Also of interest is the exceptional bucchero from the lowest stratum of Trench 20, a heavy carbonized soil that is chock full of seventh and early sixth century pottery of remarkable quality. We were looking at these finds with our students last night, as part of a presentation of the material culture of the site in which we try to familiarize the students with the variety of finds that have been produced by ten years of excavation. One of the issues that we discussed, as we looked at tables laid out with exceptional bucchero, is the remarkable wealth the site in its first phase, the late Orientalizing and early Archaic periods. Yet it is so difficult to envision and reconstruct from the archaeological remains the physical appearance of the early settlement, the shape and resonance of the place. This is why archaeology can be such a frustrating field, for the sherds of pottery, the sandstone blocks and column bases, the occasional bronze fragment, give us only a hint of a vital and flourishing community at the dawn of Etruscan history. We know it was there but can say almost nothing "real" about it. Was it a sanctuary? Was it an elite settlement? Why did it exist?

View of Trench PC 20 from the south.

These are the larger questions that we must ask ourselves after ten years. We plan ten more years of excavation before we undertake final publication. The choices that we make in the next few years are crucial, for archaeology must necessarily proceed at a snail's pace, and ten more years of excavation at such a large site will only document a very small percentage of the whole. Our real goal, from the very beginning, was to document the life and death of an Etruscan settlement that fortuitously spans most of Etruscan history. Such an enterprise is a truly singular thing. This is where broader study of settlement pattern, through survey, and through carefully selected excavation, will be important. This week we have been joined by our good friend, Dr. Dario Monna of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, who is doing resistivity studies in some of the fields in the proximity of the Podere Funghi, where there is the possibility of finding a necropolis coeval with the Podere Funghi habitation. Dr. Monna has generously offered to train two of our students and to loan us equipment so that we can continue to perform geoprospection over the next few weeks. We are hoping to garner data that will allow us to plan better for the future. Our temporal and financial resources are finite, and our goals are unfortunately much larger than our resources. After ten years, it is time to think of the big picture.

Our geophysicist, Dr. Dario Monna of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
working with Laura Crowley and Aaron Bartels near the Podere Funghi.

View of Poggio Colla Trenches PC 22, 23, and 25 from the west.


View of several of the 2004 Poggio Colla trenches from the south.


Robert Vander Poppen and Greg Warden on Poggio Colla.


Week 5 - Michael Thomas:

Michael Thomas, Brad Schneider, Robert Vander Poppen, and Ivo van der Graaff
during Week 5 trench tours on Poggio Colla.

Interpretation of archaeological evidence is one of the real challenges of excavation. How do we explain what we find? At times it seems we are being teased by just enough evidence to allow us to speculate, but not enough to know exactly what we have found. One example is our struggle with the appearance of our monumental building. For the first several years we saw rectangular foundations, so we naturally assumed that we had a large rectangular building. We have since moved away from that theory for several reasons, one of which is the fact that we have never any evidence an interior support for a roof large enough to span the foundations. Thus, because of evidence of rooms on the outside of this large rectangle, we have speculated that we instead have some type of courtyard building. Yet even that theory has its problems. Namely, that although we have evidence of such rooms outside the courtyard during the Phase III, we have absolutely no evidence of any other structures in the second phase. So what did the second phase building look like? According to what we have excavated, we would have to speculate that the Phase II building may not have been a building, but just a large rectangle platform with an altar in the middle (if the blocks in PC 23 are indeed an altar). Phase I is another matter entirely.

2003 Poggio Colla Site Plan

Up to now, Phase I has eluded us except for a line of massive quarried blocks in PC 8. This week PC 20 has given us another glimpse into this early phase of our site. We discovered that what we have always assumed was a Phase I block actually sits on another similar block. This lower block has a clear foundation trench into the bedrock. This now suggests that the Phase I building was terraced out to the north with multiple courses where the building extended over a slope. Yet this brings up another question: where is the other side of this building? We have found no evidence yet of any Phase I blocks in the center of the hill.

Large blocks in foundation trench.

We have similar challenges of interpretation in the Podere Funghi, even though this site is much less complicated than the top of the hill. For example, where is the north wall of the structure? The answer is there is not one, and it seems unlikely that there ever was. Although it is tempting to suggest that the northern wall was simply washed down the hill, even if that had been the case we would have found evidence of some of it. Also, we would have likely lost evidence of the northern parts of the eastern and western foundation. At this point the most likely explanation is that the northern part of the building was an open workshop. But even that is open to interpretation.

The low stone feature associated with the building in the Podere Funghi
ends at the edge of PF 17, as shown from the north.

Also problematic is the western foundation at the point where the two kilns are sited. We had originally speculated that the wall was built later, since the flue of the kilns seemed to go under the wall. Yet our recent excavation of the second kiln suggests that its flue was on the same as the wall. The area of the flues also coincides with what may be as break in the wall. This set up seems strange, kilns facing into a break in a wall. Hopefully, as we follow the kiln floor toward the wall we will come up with some answers.

Virginia Lewis, Krishawna Brown, and Robert Belanger excavating Kiln 2 in foregound.
Giuseppina Marras, Brad Schneider, and Ludo Zywczak excavating Trench PF 17 in background.

Robert Belanger explains his Podere Funghi trenches during trench tours--Kilns 1 and 2 at right.

Finally, this week we discovered that the southern foundation wall of building continues to the east, and runs through the eastern scarp of PF 15. Does this mean that another room stood to the east? It certainly seems to be a possibility. We will nonetheless have to reopen PF 15 next year and excavate to the east.


Week 6 - Michael Thomas:

Left: Giuseppe Ancarani (Bepe) of the Dicomano Archaeological Group with Michael Thomas.
Right: Mugello Archaeological Inspector Fedeli (at left) with Greg Warden in 2004.

The last week has been busy. It always is. In addition to work, we have had numerous visitors, including Prof. Luca Fedeli, the archaeological inspector for our area, and Prof. Tony Tuck, my future colleague at Tufts and the director of the excavations at Poggio Civitate. The students have been working hard as have the trench supervisors and assistants. Although everyone is a bit worn out, there is a buzz to the last week as everyone reaches to finish up what they are working on. At the same time, when the last day of excavation arrives, as tired as everyone is, we are all a bit sad to know that the excavation process is over.

Estelle Thomas, Robert Vander Poppen, Jess Galloway, and Michael Thomas
with Tony Tuck, Director of excavations at Poggio Civitate (Murlo).

As we prepare to start the final week of work (the week of documentation and then backfill) it is time to reflect a bit on the season. We have accomplished a great deal this season, and I am satisfied with our progress. I am a bit frustrated that we were not able to finish some of the areas I had hoped to complete at the beginning of the season. We will have to re-open the Podere Funghi (on a much smaller scale), PC 23, and 26 next year. These were areas I had hoped to complete this year. We were hampered by several finds that slowed down excavation, especially in the areas of PC 20 and PF 15; yet these situations occur and are inevitably part of the excavation. We are in a position where we will be able to finish several trenches next season. Also next season, our work in the Podere Funghi will be thankfully limited to one trench, the area to the southeast of PF 15. This will allow us to hopefully add a 5th trench on the top of Poggio Colla. My primary goals for next year are to finish the Podere Funghi (we will initiate a study season there while we finish up excavation). If all goes well, we will have 6 trenches on the top by the 2006 season, hopefully at least four of those will be new trenches.

Left: Katy Blanchard excavating vessels Feature 2 in Trench PF 15.
Right: Bradley Schneider defining the iron spearhead he found in Trench PC 20.


Week 7:

Director Greg Warden, Assistant Field Director Robert Vander Poppen,
Director Michael Thomas, and Architect Jess Galloway debate the nature of the
monumental building on Poggio Colla in light of new architectural evidence.



Students and staff gathered for final trench tours at the end of the 2004 field season.


Architect Jess Galloway draws detailed plans of the site, incorporating hand drawn and electronic survey data.


Poggio Colla trenches at the end of the 2004 field season (PC 20 begins at right).


Partial view of Trenches PC 19, 22, and 23 on Poggio Colla.


Greg Warden shooting final photos on Poggio Colla.


Katy Blanchard, Estelle Thomas, Sanda Heinz, Lynn Makowsky, and
Abby Christofferson shoveling for backfill in the Podere Funghi.


Backfilling trenches in the Podere Funghi at the end of the 2004 season.


Backfilling trenches on Poggio Colla at the end of the 2004 season.